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HSR&D Citation Abstract

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Jiang Y, Lerrigo R, Ullah A, Alagappan M, Asch SM, Goodman SN, Sinha SR. The high resource impact of reformatting requirements for scientific papers. PLoS ONE. 2019 Oct 30; 14(10):e0223976.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: Most research manuscripts are not accepted for publication on first submission. A major part of the resubmission process is reformatting to another journal's specific requirements, a process separate from revising the scientific content. There has been little research to understand the magnitude of the burden imposed by the current resubmission process. METHODS: We analyzed original research article submission requirements from twelve randomly selected journals in each of eight scientific and clinical focus areas from the InCites Journal Citation Reports database. From the 96 journals selected, we randomly identified three recently published manuscripts and sent surveys to those first and/or corresponding authors (288 total) to solicit information on time spent reformatting resubmissions and opinions on the process. FINDINGS: There was significant variation in manuscript submission requirements for journals within the same scientific focus and only 4% of journals offered a fully format-free initial submission. Of 203 authors responding (71.5% response rate), only 11.8% expressed satisfaction with the resubmission process and 91% desired reforming the current system. Time spent on reformatting delays most publications by at least two weeks and by over three months in about 20% of manuscripts. The effort to comply with submission requirements has significant global economic burden, estimated at over $1.1 billion dollars annually when accounting for a research team's time. INTERPRETATION: We demonstrate that there is significant resource utilization associated with resubmitting manuscripts, heretofore not properly quantified. The vast majority of authors are not satisfied with the current process. Addressing these issues by reconciling reformatting requirements among journals or adopting a universal format-free initial submission policy would help resolve a major subject for the scientific research community and provide more efficient dissemination of findings.

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